San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is one of the must sees for a visitor. However the iconic attraction isn’t close to the centre or to the main public transport routes which, while time consuming is an opportunity to see more of the city.
Probably the simplest way for a visitor to get there is to take a tour bus, of which San Francisco has plenty. There’s also the options of a scenic hour’s walk from Fisherman’s Wharf or cycling on a hire bike, but it’s always been this site’s contention is the best way to get to know a place is to catch the local public transport.
In San Francisco, the public Muni network operates the bus, light rail and cablecar system with the Muni Passport offering unlimited rides at $17 for day or $35 for a week, which is a deal given the cable car services alone are $7 a trip.
The Muni Passport can be bought at most drugstores and at the various Muni ticket stalls dotted around San Francisco, most notably at the Ferry Building and at the Powell Street cable car terminus. While some outlets will sell you a Clipper Card with the passport pre-loaded, most outlets give you a paper copy that requires you to scratch the dates on it.
Getting the bus
San Francisco’s Muni bus network is comprehensive although there isn’t a direct bus to the Golden Gate Bridge except the weekend the hourly 76x bus to the tollgates that continues onto the Marin Headlands and Fort Cronkhite, a worthwhile trip in itself.
Another direct service is Golden Gate Transit’s number 10 and 70 services which don’t accept the Muni Passport but are faster and more direct than the Muni buses as they service the commuter town to the north of the city.
For most times though the 28 – 19th Avenue service is the most frequent and cheapest service to the Golden Gate however it goes nowhere near the tourist precincts giving a visitor an opportunity to explore the city and get a taste of the ordinary person’s San Francisco.
Connecting to the 28
The quickest connection from downtown San Francisco is the 38 or 38R Geary services from Union Square, these frequent services head directly West from the city and drop you off at the corner of Geary and 19th Avenue which the 28 runs along.
If you’re feeling more active during peak commute times the 38R continues to Lands End, the walk from there to the Golden Gate Bridge takes around two hours along the route of one of the original steam car routes and gives great vistas of the Marin Headlands and the Bridge. The Cliff House and Sutro pool ruins at Lands End itself are worth exploring as well.
There are other buses that can connect with the 28 at 19th Avenue including the 1 California however they are a lot slower and less frequent than the 38 Geary.
Another way, which may be faster than the buses during peak times in to catch the N – Judah/Ocean Beach service which drops you at 19th Street a little further south of the 38’s stop. On the outward route the stops are a block apart while coming back from the Golden Gate, the stops are adjacent.
From Fisherman’s wharf and the cable cars
The cable cars aren’t particularly convenient to the 28 terminus in the Marina district and the best way to make the connection is the 30 bus that goes along North Point with a change at the corner of Chestnut and Laguna Streets.
A much nicer alternative to the 30 bus is to walk from Fisherman’s wharf via the Maritime Museum in the wonderfully art deco Aquatic Park Bathhouse (free admission) and Fort Mason to the 28 Terminus in the Marina District.
Returning to San Francisco
All the above options are available in the reverse direction and again the Golden Gate Transit service is the fastest option back to the city although it doesn’t accept Muni passes. You can catch GGT buses from the toll plaza level of the bridge.
If you’ve walked the bridge and aren’t inclined to do the return trip, some GGT services stop on the Northern approaches and the 76X stops on the xx road just above the bridge’s approaches, otherwise you can walk another 45 minutes to Sausalito and catch a ferry – again Muni Passes aren’t accepted – to either the Ferry Building or Pier 43 near Fisherman’s Wharf.
Whichever way you go, the trip out to the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the must do things of a San Francisco visit and using the public buses is a great way to get a feel for the city.